Athena Tauscher is on a quest.
The fifth-grader, and many of her classmates at Elmhurst Elementary School in the Franklin Pierce School District, would very much like it if state lawmakers passed a particular bill this session. The subject? A dinosaur.
They want the Suciasaurus (it's pronounced soo-shuh-SOAR-us) to be declared Washington’s official state dinosaur.
Researchers from the Burke Museum at the University of Washington found a small fossil from a Suciasaurus at Sucia Island State Park (thus the name of the dinosaur) in 2012. The small piece of femur is about 80 million years old, and the only dinosaur fossil on record as having been discovered in Washington state.
Last year, when Tauscher and her classmates were in Amy Cole’s fourth-grade class, they learned about the fossil, and decided to ask for official recognition.
“A state dinosaur?” you might be thinking. Consider this: a dozen states already have one. So does Washington, D.C., and – in case you’re curious – it’s informally referred to as a “Capitalsaurus.”
“Ms. Cole is really hoping it becomes a law, and my mom also hopes that it becomes a law,” said Tauscher, 11. “My mom thinks we need to storm the capital.”
The Suciasaurus is a theropod, walking on two legs like a Tyrannosaurus or velociraptor (Athena's favorite dinosaur, by the way). It was a carnivore, and lived during the Cretaceous period.
Cole said the idea to have her students seek recognition for Suciasaurus came as they were reading about a class in Massachusetts.
“They ended up deciding their state insect,” she said. “And from that, this project just kind of took off.”
The bill to designate Suciasaurus as Washington’s state dinosaur is sponsored by state Rep. Melanie Morgan, D-Parkland.
Researching the possibility of making their idea into a law meant the students were delving into writing, history, science and more. But Cole said most importantly, they were seeing how the things they study in school can be applied to life outside the classroom.
“Constantly the question I’m getting in school is how is this affecting me, or what does this have to do with me?” Cole said. “It’s really exciting to be able to show them that they can have an impact on our laws, and the government process.”
Wednesday is the deadline for the bill to pass the House before advancing to the Senate. If it doesn’t, Cole says that’s just a different lesson in how government functions.
But if it does, Washington will become the 13th state to have a state dinosaur, the mighty Suciasaurus will take its place next to the American goldfinch (state bird) and the Columbia mammoth (state fossil), and a whole bunch of students at Elmhurst Elementary School will get to point to a writing assignment that is now enshrined in law.
UPDATE, Feb. 19: House lawmakers approved this bill, 91-7, ahead of today's cutoff for it to leave the House. It now heads to the Senate for consideration.